A Very Gritty Birthday

Some love him. Some hate him. Some even fear him. Either way, Gritty gets a reaction — and one far greater than a typical mascot. Since being introduced on September 24, 2018 Gritty has gone viral, been on late night TV, and inspired many arguments about whether the monster is creepy, cute, or somewhere in between. In honor of Gritty’s first trip around the sun, here’s a closer look at how Gritty grew as a brand into the icon he is today.

After decades of being one of the few mascotless teams of the NHL, the Flyers pulled the trigger and began developing the awkward, enigmatic monster soon to be known as Gritty. Gritty sticks out like a sore thumb in the sea of mascots — he’s neon orange and incredibly hairy, with googly eyes and an exaggerated dad bod. Yet it’s his differences that make him one of the most memorable and talked-about mascots of all time.

Gritty’s success doesn’t only come from his offbeat appearance. The Flyers worked to create a brand that is rich in character and personality. The Flyers even collaborated with David Raymond, the original Philly Phanatic performer, to help develop the character. On the importance of a mascot’s personality, Raymond said “You can’t hug an institution. You can’t hug the players, in most cases … but you can hug the mascot. It is the living, breathing brand extension.” Whether or not you agree that Gritty represents the Flyers (and as an extension, the city of Philadelphia), he’s certainly been able to command an amazing amount of attention with his strong and well-developed personality.

Gritty’s personality does some of its heaviest lifting on social media — he’s threatened the Pittsburgh Penguins  with violence and imitated Kim Kardashian, to name a few notable moments. It’s no wonder that Gritty has had a number of viral tweets. By adding the mascot’s unique flair to current viral trends and memes, the team behind Gritty’s social media presence has tapped into pop culture on social media in a major way. Gritty’s had his moments IRL, too — in his Flyers debut, he dramatically slipped and fell on the ice. The moment was apparently unscripted, but it still made a large impact on shaping Gritty’s brand image. 

Overall, Gritty remains controversial, as not all Philadelphians are sold on the unorthodox mascot. But the Flyers are definitely doing something right — how many other mascots can you name that have been guests on The Tonight Show or roasted on SNL? He was even named Best Philadelphian in 2019 by Philly Mag, showing that to many people, Gritty truly does embody the city of Philadelphia. Gritty has gone above and beyond what’s expected for a mascot and become an entertaining and valuable part of pop culture. Brands looking to stand out from the crowd can take a page out of Gritty’s book by thinking bigger, bolder, and perhaps even uglier. Sorry Gritty — we didn’t mean to insult you on your birthday (even if it’s true).

Happy first birthday, Gritty. Here’s to many more years of going viral and inspiring nightmares all across Philadelphia.